Question for any thumb playing bassists out there

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by dewey decibel, Jan 16, 2015.

  1. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    I'm a guitar player that can fake some bass. I'm not so great at the standard index/middle right hand technique, and tend to use my thumb (or a pick when it fits). The thing is, if I do so for too long (and not long really, usually just a couple songs) I get a wicked blister. It's not your usual blister though, it's at a much deeper layer under the skin than your usual blister. In fact I sat in a couple nights ago on maybe 3 songs and while I can't even see the blister I know it's there and it's painful. What's odd is it usually doesn't develop until 2 or 3 days after.

    So I'm going to get a short scale bass soon for tracking demos but was also hoping to be able to cover pickup gigs if they should come up. Any idea how to handle this? Last time I got the blister I tried playing with a band-aid over it but it was too painful, maybe I need to start with the band-aid as a preemptive measure? I know other guys play with their thumb, I'd assume I just need to build up a callus but I don't see that happening, like I said these blisters are so much deeper than that top layer of skin. Any thoughts are appreciated!
     
  2. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Member

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    What you're describing doesn't sound like a blister, it sounds more like a sore tendon or joint. Stop doing what you're doing. Learn to play with your fingers or with a pick. Either one will allow you to improve your technique much more than playing with your thumb will.
     
  3. rodeodee

    rodeodee Member

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    Some of the best bass players in my town play with this awesome Motown thumb pick style. Not slapping but down stroke thumb style. Sounds great and they get a better P bass tone than anyone else around. If you can find a way to toughen up the thumb you'll be laughing.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  4. M138

    M138 100% Fenriz Approved

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    How hard are you attacking the strings? Maybe you need to work on technique and lighten up your touch. I use my thumb for non slap playing often, but with a light touch.
     
  5. Belmont

    Belmont Member

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    regular bass playing requires callouses, keep playing and build them up.
     
  6. olejason

    olejason Supporting Member

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    This is not a technique issue but a practice issue. Sorry but you can't expect to play bass well without putting in the time and practice to develop technique and callouses. Kind of like when new guitarists ask how to keep their left hand fingertips from getting sore... practice. :)
     
  7. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Member

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    Yes. If you're going to get up to speed on bass enough to sub you need to learn it correctly. A pick is okay, and necessary for some things on bass, but learn to play with your fingers. I don't have much faith in bass players who can ONLY play with a pick.

    Exactly. You WILL have callouses if you're rehearsed enough to gig, whether on guitar or bass. Don't avoid them....embrace them!
     
  8. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    It's definitely not a joint, there's no joint there it's the pad of my thumb. Same spot I use when I pay guitar a la Wes Montgomery. There's already a callus there on the outside, but this is deeper, below the skin.

    Yup, that's pretty much my bag.

    I can try it, but it's tricky because as I said the symptoms don't develop until a day or two latter. It's like I don't know if I'm doing the damage or not. I'm hoping the shorter scale bass with less string tension will help with this. I can play guitar all day with my thumb with no issues.
     
  9. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    You're simply playing too hard. The key to playing bass for any length of time is to play very lightly and rely on the amp to get you across.

    I play with my thumb quite a bit as well as my fingers. I do get blisters but not deep tissue.
     
  10. mscmkr

    mscmkr Member

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    Man up and develop a callus, boy. :cool:
     
  11. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Member

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    Plenty of bass players use their thumb that way. There is no wrong way. In my main band I play with a pick about 90% of the time, because that's what is called for. In another band I use fingers 100% of the time.

    Sounds to me like you need to practice more and build up callouses.

    btw, McCartney ONLY plays with a pick.
     
  12. randomhitz

    randomhitz Member

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    two things you can try--a felt ukulele pick which sounds closer to fingers or use as heavy a thumb pick you can find. I use the thumb pick if I have to play bass all night and haven't played it for a while. you can damp a little with your palm with the thumb pick and it adds a nice percussive quality to the sound. I also shave down the length a bit to get a little more flesh on the string.
     
  13. StratoCraig

    StratoCraig Member

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    And Carol Kaye, and many others we could name. The idea that there is only one "correct" technique for bass is silly.
     
  14. Dubious

    Dubious Member

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  15. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Member

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    I came to bass playing from a guitar playing background (10 years' worth) and began playing with a pick because I could not make myself NOT use my thumb. Eventually I got tired of finding where I'd stashed my pick (this happened just before I went on stage at my first bass-playing gig) and decided to use my fingers. Piece of cake...and I have been gigging and recording on bass pretty much ever since.

    The use of the thumb limits the player, in my experience; there are so many different ways to attack the strings with the fingers that are not possible or hampered by the use of the thumb.

    I have never gone back to a pick, except in one instance when someone asked me to record the sound of my bass played with a pick. While I have a lot of respect for Carol Kaye, that technique doesn't work for me.
     
  16. M138

    M138 100% Fenriz Approved

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    Using the thumb is just one right hand technique to achieve a sound. I will use all thumb, thumb and index/middle/ring, just fingers, pick, slap, whatever to get the sound I am looking for.

    Not using the thumb at all would be limiting IMO.
     
  17. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    it's only using the thumb to pluck that's limiting. face it, it's a non-bass playing beginner's method for folks who don't know better.

    having said that, sting makes it work for him, but he's mostly pulsing 8th notes only.



    ...although i believe he cranked it out with a pick in the police days, and i'll bet he can play proper fingerstyle just fine; i'm sure the thumb thing is strictly about the tone it gives him.

    the real "legit" thumb technique is palm-muting at the same time to fake an upright sound on the electric, something joey spampinato from NRBQ is an acknowledged master of:



    the funny thing is that the P-bass first came out with that "tug bar" finger rest in '52 or whatever, because nobody (including leo fender) had any idea how the electric bass was supposed to be played, and they just guessed (like any non-bass playing beginner) that you'd thump it with your thumb.

    note how that eventually went away as proper, non-limiting techniques were developed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2015
  18. StratoCraig

    StratoCraig Member

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    Yeah, putting the finger rest below the strings never made any sense to me. I actually like having one above the strings ('70s Fender style) for my thumb to anchor on while picking with my first two fingers. I just installed one on my MIM Jazz this afternoon.

    My impression is that early electric bass players mostly came from one of two groups: (1) standup bass players, (2) guitarists. The standup players wanted to pick with two fingers (classical pizzicato technique) and the guitarists wanted to play with a flat pick. This led to the development of two schools of players and two styles of pedagogy, both valid, but each with an unfortunate tendency to proclaim itself the only correct method.

    Where thumb picking came from, I'm not sure, but it's a useful technique too -- it gives you a softer attack than the other fingers, probably due to the thumb being larger and more fleshy than the fingertips.

    I mostly pick with the first two fingers, but I can use a flat pick when I want to. I rarely use my thumb and consequently I'm not all that comfortable doing it.

    Thanks for that Spampinato Brothers video. Very cool.
     
  19. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    i myself have always been a pick bass player, and it's only in the past few years that i've gotten to be reasonably tolerable with two-finger style.

    i can do the fake-upright palm mute thumb thing OK though :)
     
  20. jcs

    jcs Member

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    I use a pick for bass mostly but also along with the middle, ring and pinky.

    I have a huge issue with bassists that will use the index & middle fingers ONLY....it is very limiting tonewise imo.

    I sometimes use my thumb too but usually in combination with a pick or other fingers.
     

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